CHAIN OF DIVINITY IN HINDU SPIRITUALITY



CHAIN OF DIVINITY IN HINDU SPIRITUALITY


To study ‘Hindu Spirituality’ one needs to be strongly rooted in some of the basic concepts of Hinduism.  It is necessary because, there is a Chain of Divinity among these concepts.  Also these concepts function as the fundamentals of ‘Hindu Spirituality’.  Therefore, four such concepts are analyzed in the first part.  They are the concepts of Reality, World, Human Life and Self.

5.1 Reality
It is often held that ‘the Vedic as also later the Hindu gods were as little virtuous as men.  They differed primarily in being more powerful’.[1]  Again, the gods are subject to the magical influence of properly utilized ritual.[2] Monier Williams writes “one of the most remarkable ideas to be found in the Brahmans was that the gods were merely mortals till they extorted immortality from the Supreme Being by sacrifices and austerities.”[3]  According to Yakub Masih logically speaking, there is no place for God in the Upanishads etc.[4]  In spite of all these negative declarations, Hinduism as a whole embodies very definite and catholic convictions about the Reality or God.
As, an adequate understanding of the concept of Reality is fundamental for the study of ‘Hindu Spirituality,’ four important questions related to the Reality can be clarified. 
Among the many questions raised regarding the idea of Reality in Hinduism, one which captured the attention of many serious thinkers was whether the Reality is one or many?  In spite of the popular notion that Hindus worship many gods, committed thinkers and followers of Hinduism have affirmed with one accord that the Reality is one.  The famous Rig Vedic declaration is that the Reality is one but the sages call it with various names.  The all-comprehensive and catholic understanding of the Hindu concept of Reality is very relevant to the pluralistic context of India.  Even in the wider context of the world, given the geographic cultural and economic situations, Reality has not been conceptualized uniformly.
The second pertinent question which drew the attention of both the philosopher and the believer was whether the Reality has any attribute?  Even the monist Sankara admitted the necessity of worshiping God with attributes in order to realize the ‘Formless’. Yet, it needs to be remembered that a majority of Hindu forms of worship are patterned in according with the popular notion that God possesses qualities.  This popular notion is at the background of ‘Hindu Spirituality’. 
The third question which lays foundation for further discussion of the subject matter ‘Hindu Spirituality’ is, whether God is transcendent or immanent?  The predominant and commonly accepted answer is that God is both.[5]  Jitendra Nath Banerjee writes that “an intelligent Hindu thinks of god as residing within himself, controlling all his actions as the ‘inner controller’ and at the same time god is outside him, manifest in innumerable ways, known and unknown.”[6]
The transcendent in relation to human beings is the bedrock for the development of ‘Hindu Spirituality’.  In the words of D. S. Sarma “according to Hindu belief, god is not a judge sitting in a remote heaven meting out punishments, but an indwelling spirit whose will works in us through the moral law here and now.”[7]  Jitendra  Nath Banerjee states the importance of the indwelling aspect of God as “the concept of the adorable Lord of the world, the God who resides in the heart of all beings, plays a most important part in the spiritual life of the Hindu.”[8]  In short it can be said that the idea that the One Reality is dwelling in the human beings is the center of ‘Hindu Spirituality’. 
  
5.2 World
For Sankara, the world is maya.  The Vallabhas[9] and Chaitanyas[10] hold that God is the material and the efficient cause of the world.  According to Tantra “it has neither a beginning nor an end.”[11]  It is eternal.  The Nyaya-Vaisesika argue that eternal atoms are the material cause and god is the organizer and engineer of the world order.[12]  For Sankhya,[13] spirits are responsible for the world.  According to mimamsa, “the formation of the world is due to the operation of the law of karma.”[14]  Ramanuja explained that the world is dependent on God.[15]  While discussing Indian theism, Satis Chandra Chatterjee says “here it is believed either that God created the world out of Himself or that He created it out of preexisting materials.”[16]  This in short summarizes the whole Hindu view of the world.  From the ‘Hindu Spirituality’ point of view it is necessary to accept that the world is ultimately a ‘spiritual entity’.[17]
Recognizing the fact that the world is divine or spiritual is another feature of ‘Hindu Spirituality’.  Generally, according to Indian tradition the earth is considered to be Mother.  As the present world is rampant with exploitations and ecological degradations, a spirituality that considers the world to be Divine can be more useful and challenging. 

5.3 Human Life
The real starting point of ‘Hindu Spirituality’ is the recognition that human beings are divine.  In other words human being is the citadel of God.  God is living in human beings.  Even philosophers say that humanity is one of the many forms in which the Supreme Being is manifested in this Universe.[18]  In the words of A. K. Banerjee, ‘divinity is the essence of humanity’.[19]  Again ‘man is essentially a Spiritual Being’[20] and ‘a finite embodied self-expression of the Supreme Spirit or Brahman’.[21]  The concepts of salvation as found in Hinduism also testify to the fact that humanity is divine. In a nutshell “it looks upon man as a Spiritual being.”[22]
Radhakrishnan is of the opinion “that which we indicate with awe as the absolute, is also our own transcendental essence.”[23]  The concept of rta in the Vedas explains that humanity is not only divine, but also is in harmony with nature.[24]
The doctrine of karma works as a viable solution to the logical question that, if humanity is divine, why there are differences among human beings.  This is clearly stated by R. V. Dandekar that “the doctrine of karma is the solution offered by Hinduism to the great riddle of the origin of suffering and the inequalities which exist among men in this world”.[25]  Sivaprasad Bhattacharya asserts that “it has always held that whatever a man attempts and achieves in this life is nothing but a form of worship of the Divine in the world around us and in man.”[26]
A. K. Banerjee,[27] V. Krishnamuthy[28] and S. Radhakrishanan[29] are of the view that human beings are born with a mission to grow.  The mission may be related to the spiritual life.  In the words of S. P. Dubey, “Indians have taken, in general, the realization of spiritual reality to be the goal of life”.[30]  It is also noted that “the striking endurance in the Hindu way of life is primarily due to its profound spirituality.”[31]
The fact that humanity is by nature divine and it has a spiritual mission has been established beyond doubt.  It is true beyond doubt that, Hinduism has such great ideals.  How far they are promoted in practical life needs to be evaluated.  It is not enough to realize that humanity is divine, but it is crucial that human beings progress in their spiritual mission.  This can be better understood from the background of Hindu understanding of the soul. 

5.4 Self (Soul)
S. Balakrishnan writes, “according to the Hindu concept, the soul which enters a body during birth and leaves it at the point of death itself is immortal and eternal.  The acknowledgement of this truth is the first step in all spiritual exercises.”[32]  Without exception every Hindu believes that the soul is eternal.  But the question whether the soul is one or many continues.  May be with the exception of Sankara, all would affirm that “it is wrong to identify the self with the body or to say that there is only one self in all bodies, for there are as many selves as there are bodies”.[33]  Another principle to be remembered about the soul is that it is in ‘Bondage’.[34]  Bondage means Samsara (birth and death).  In other words, the soul suffers births and deaths on account of its unawareness about its eternal character.
To summarize the chain of thought present in the above discussion, it can be said that, the fundamentals of ‘Hindu Spirituality’ are the realization that the Reality is one, the World is divine, humanity is divine and the Souls are eternal.  This background would be of immense help in the study of ‘Hindu Spirituality’.








[1] Max Weber, The Religion of India, Translated and edited by Hans H. Gerth and Don Martindale,
Second Printing (Illinois: The Free Press, Glencoe, 1960), p.166.
[2] Ibid., p.167.
[3] Monier Williams, Hinduism, Reprinted (Calcutta: Susil Gupta (India), Ltd., 1951), p. 25.
[4] Yakub Masih, The Hindu Religious Thought (3000 BC – 200 AD), (Delhi – 7: Motilal
 Banasidass, 1983), p. 99.
[5] S. Radhakrishna, An Idealist View of Life, Fourth impression (Second edition) (London: George
 Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1951), p. 106.
[6] Jitendra Nath Banerjee, “The Hindu Concept of God”, The Religion of Hindus, ed. by Kenneth
 Morgan, Reprint (Delhi-7: Motilal Banarsidas,” 1986), p. 48.
[7] D. S. Sarma, “The Nature and History of Hinduism”, Ibid, p. 23.
[8] Jitendra Nath Banerjee, op. cit., p. 49.
[9] Satis Chandra Chatterjee, “Hindu Religious Thought”, The Religion of Hindus, ed. by Kenneth
Morgan, op. cit., p. 249.
[10] Ibid., p. 247.
[11] Ibid., p. 259.
[12] Stakari Mookerjee, “Nyaya-Vaisesika”, The Cultural Heritage of India, Vol. III, p. 109.
[13] Yakub Masih, op. cit., p. 134.
[14] Satis Chandra Chatterjee, op. cit., p. 212.
[15] Ibid., p. 230.
[16] Ibid., p. 215.
[17] A. K. Banerjee, Discourses on Hindu Spiritual Culture (New Delhi-1: S. Chand & Co., 1967),
P. 133.
[18] R. N. Dandekar, “The Role of Man in Hinduism,” The Religion of Hindus, ed. by Kenneth
Morgan, op. cit., p. 117.
[19] A. K. Banarjee, op. cit., p. 103.
[20] Ibid., p. 133.
[21] Ibid., p. 134.
[22] P. Nagaraja Rao, “A Contemporary Hindu Understanding of Salvation,” Bangalore Theological
Forum, Vol. V, Number 2 (July-December 1973), p. 37.
[23] Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, “Introduction to the First Edition,”The Cultural Heritage of India,
Vol. 1, p. XXX.
[24] Rajendra P. Pandeya, “The Vision of the Vedic Seer”, Hindu Spirituality; Vedas through
Vedanta, First Indian Edition (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1995), p. 21.
[25] R. N. Dandekar, “The Role of Man in Hinduism”, op. cit., p. 127.
[26] Sivaprasad Bhattacharya, “Religious Practices of the Hindus,” The Religion of the Hindus, ed.
by Kenneth Morgan, p. 154.
[27] A. K. Banarjee, op. cit., p. 73.
[28] V. Krishnamurthy, Essentials of Hinduism, Narosa Publishing House (New Delhi-110 017:
1989), p. 14.
[29] S. Radhakrishnan, An Idealist View of Life, p. 204.
[30] S. P. Dubey, “The Indian View of Life,” National Council of Churches Review, Vol. CIII, No.9
(September 1983), p. 425.
[31] Ibid., p. 429.
[32] S. Balakrishnan, Introduction to Hinduism, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Great
Britain, 1996), p. 25.
[33] Satis Chandra Chatterjee, op. cit., p.235.
[34] Ibid., p. 254.

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